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H809 – Reading Tolmie (2001)

April 4, 2011

My head is already buzzing with all the different learning theories.

This week is about traditional vs. sociocultural theories, acquisition vs. participation (Sfard, 1995), individual vs. social learning, product vs. process, or ‘have more’ vs. ‘take part’ and ‘being part’ of a certain community (Brown,1998).

Oliver et al. (2007) already contrasted the different epistemologies (see blog post), mainly positivism, i.e. the knowledge perspective and the social perspective. The latter posit knowledge as being ‘in here’ constructed by the knower and inseparably a part of them, knowledge arise from social practice, it is constructed rather than ‘found’ and it is context-dependent.

Tolmie (2001) relies on a psychodynamic or psychologist approach. He assumes that context and past experience of people influence their action. He also claims that gender influence our ICT use which I personally find pretty old-fashioned, also I admit that there might be some gender differences. However, to simply assume that all males focus on concrete aspects of the problem in hand, females focus on consensus and mixed pairs avoid discussion altogether, seems pretty stereotype.

However, one issue is absolutely undeniable – that it is all about context – and that we need to take context into consideration, or at least describe it throughly enough to allow comparison, when conducting a research.

I also agree with Tolmie that ‘pre-existing activity is likely to shape both use and outcome’. The Psychology students encountered problems with technology at the start-up stage and thus prefered to not rely on this technology. I experience that quite with my students, that they avoid or even refuses doing things or using a certain technology, when they experienced problems with that particular approach. It is then quite difficult to convince them from the contrary. It is also a problem if they learned to use a certain technology or software differently from the way I use and apply it. This is often accompanied with a lot of discussion. If their approach is applicable then I let them do it their way, but this is not always the case and then I have to do a lot of persuading. But, well that’s my job as a teacher 😉


Brown, J. S. (1989) ‘Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning’, Educational Researcher [online] vol. 18, no. 1. Available from (accessed 28 February 2010).

Oliver, M., Roberts, G., Beetham, H., Ingraham, B. and Dyke, M. (2007) ‘Knowledge, society and perspectives on learning technology’ in Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Sfard, A. (1998) ‘On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One’, Educational Researcher [online] vol. 27, no. 2. Available from (accessed 24 February 2010).

Tolmie, A. (2001) ‘Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT’, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 235–41; also available online at
(Accessed 2 December 2010).

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